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reprimanded the parliament for its frowardness, and for endeavoring to form a political union, under the name of classes, with the seventeen provincial parliaments throughout the kingdom. The policy of Choiseul in these matters is not to be mistaken. The object of his emulation was Pitt: him the French minister rivalled and imitated, not only in his bold nd patriotic schemes for advancing the glory and dominion of the kingdom, but also in his supporting himself on popuarity, and of the majority of a representative assembly. Choiseul's house of commons was the French parliament: he endeavored to make use of it as a counterpoise to the capri cious whims of the king, the high-church party, and the mis tress. Such policy was, however, in the duke not profound, it proceeded from no deep and meditated plan of altering the constitution of the country. If he renewed the scheme and revived the ideas of the legists of the Fronde, it was unwittingly: he leaned on the parliament as a temporary support; and, in common with the statesmen of his time, he little understood the machinery of a limited government. A decree of the king's counsel, in the mean time, reversed the judicial verdict of the parliament condemning D'Aiguillon. The sentence was even erased and torn from the registers of the palace. The inculpated minister kept his place, and sat as a peer in the body of parliament, which, though it had suspended its functions as a court of justice, pretending itself dishonored by the royal edict of reprobation, still assembled to discuss the public interests, the new corn-law, and other affairs of state. This interruption of all law pleadings, this kind of civil interdict, wielded by the legists in imitation of their ancient rivals, the ecclesiastical power, was seriously felt throughout the kingdom. It was the signal of discontent; a measure so extreme, that hitherto no minister since Richelieu had been bold enough to resist it. But the magistracy, however supported by the popular voice on the present occasion, had lost much of their ancient influence; and despite of all the importance attributed to them by the late minister, and despite their being made a screen and a bulwark by his party, the parliament had nevertheless fallen considerably into the same disrepute with all privileged classes and constituted *uthorities. Hence Maupeau and D'Aiguillon were able to rush the body with impunity. Choiseul had been dismissed n the 24th of December, 1770. On the 20th of the following month, and in the night, each member of the parliament was surprised in his bed by two mousquetaires, who presented a written promise to resume their functions. To this a signature of yes or no was compelled. No was the general reply
Żol. PARLIAMENT EXILED. 201
Some in their surprise signed in the affirmative; but no sooner had the parliament assembled in the morning after this act of authority, than the whole body unanimously declared their determination not to obey. The following night, in consequence, brought another visit from the mousquetaires, who now signified to each member, that he was degraded from his office, and the parliament broken and cancelled. A decree of exile was at the same time put in force against the entire body, which was dispersed in different remote parts of the kingdom. . To appoint new courts of justice, and to find chiefs, was now the task of Maupeon. He declared that such offices should be no longer venal; he destroyed the overgrown jurisdiction of the capital, by the establishment of inferior and provincial courts; promised a new code of law, more in harmony than feudal traditions and imperial canons, with the intellectual civilization of the day. In short, the chancellor made every effort to bring round the public voice, and that of men of letters, to the new ministry. His endeavors, aided by threats and force, sücceeded in weaning attachment from the exiled parliament, but could procure none for himself. The hopes of the French began to turn in another direction, and to look for amelioration in a change more radical, and in an assembly that would be truly national. The states-general became already the silent wish of all men possessed of thought or of political ideas.” The noblesse alone seemed on this occasion to make common cause with the parliament, with whom they were united in the court of peers, abrogated by the late act of authority. All refused to attend the bed of justice held by Louis XV. to open and sanction his new judicial court. The prince of Condé, his son of Bourbon, and the prince Conti were exiled in consequence, as well as the duke of Orleans, and his son, the duc de Chartres. This last personage was afterwards the famous Philip Egalité. He was now the zealous opponent of the court, and partisan of parliaments. Royalty was thus triumphant over both these bodies, the Jesuits and the legists, whose quarrel had occupied public attention, and by balancing which the court had hitherto kept itself shielded from the weight or the serious attacks of unpopularity. Louis XV., under madame du Barry and D'Aiguilion, destroyed these outworks, which stood before the fortress of his power; and henceforth we shall find all classes con founded, advancing together, and making coinmon cause against the monarchy. Had a successful, a glorious, or patriotic ministry broken the parliaments, they most probably would never have recovered their power; but the incapacity of the duc d'Aiguillon, and the blunders of the abbé Terray, soon nullified all their acts. The latter had however a difficult task. He was finance minister, and obliged to meet an annual expense of 400 millions of livres with a revenue far inferior. This deficit was increased by an undertaking to repay the price of their places to such members of the exiled parliament as would submit. To meet this, and to cover the profusion of madame du Barry, Terray increased the taille, or tax upon the peasantry, and this at a time of such general distress, that politicians exclaimed against the surplus of the population. In addition to this, the abbé ventured on the simple expedient of a partial bankruptcy. By a stroke of his pen, he reduced the interest of the public debt by one half. .* The partition of Poland, however, was what principally set the seal of imbecility and disgrace on the ministry of the duc d'Aiguillon. Russia, with overwhelming power, still pressed on that unfortunate country, usurping the rights of a king whom she had placed on its throne: her armies occupied the country, merely opposed by a patriotic but weak confederation of Poles. Dumourier had supported these. Viomenil succeeded to him, and kept up the character of French generosity and valor. But Austria no longer maintained her friendship and connexions with Choiseul, and was no longer opposed to the views of Russia. Prussia joined in the schemes; and whilst Louis XV. was slumbering in the arms of du Barry, and his minister d'Aiguillon employed in imprisoning the adherents of the parliament, the ancient kingdom of Poland was dismembered and almost blotted from the map of Europe. In the midst of this decay and disgrace of his kingdom, Louis XV. was stricken with a mortal malady: it was the small-pox. Considering his age and free life, there were few hopes, from the first, of his recovery. The bedside of the dying monarch from thence became the scene of the most disgraceful quarrels and intrigues. The Choiseul party urged the necessity of chasing madame du Barry from court with disgrace; and loudly argued, that Beaumont, archbishop of Paris, should refuse the sacraments to the dying monarch, if this sacrifice was not made to decorum and piety; but the archbishop, who had so oft refused the consolations of the church and the ceremony of burial to a refractorv Jansenist,
* “It was at this time,” says Dumourier in his Memoirs, “that I underook an Essay on the States-General, of which every one, endowed with foresight, began to perceive the urgent necessity"
1774. DEATH OF LOUIS XV. 203
would not be severe with madame du Barry, who, however base, had humbled Choiseul and the parliament, the great enemies of the high church. The mistress, therefore, was allowed to retire without scandal or public disgrace. Louis, attended with the most exemplary affection by his daughters, expired on the 10th of May, 1774. Etiquette required that the body should be embalmed. But already in a state of putrefaction, no surgeon could be found to undertake the office; nor could a courtier be induced to oversee the last duties paid to the monarch. His remains were huddled into their last abode by the workmen of the château: spirits of wine were poured on them; and in this state they were abandoned, till conveyed to St. Denis. The dauphin was with Marie Antoinette, awaiting tidings of his royal grandsire's fate. A noise, like thunder, was heard suddenly in their antechamber. “It was that of the courtiers,” says madame Campan, “who had deserted the apartments of the deceased monarch, to do homage to the new power of Louis XVI.” The first act of this prince and of his queen, was to fling themselves upon their knees, and exclaim, “My God! guide us, protect us: we are too young to reign.”
CHAP. IX. 1774–1789.
FROM THE ACCESSION OF LOUIS XVI. TO THE ASSEMBLING OF THE STATES-GENERAL.
FROM the commencement of this history, care has been taken to bring into view, at intervals, those natural and marked divisions of society which share and dispute political influence. Of these, for several centuries, three alone have preserved ascendency; and each of the three may be said to have obtained this, as representing one of the great elements of power: royalty represented birth or hereditary right; the noblesse, property or wealth; the priesthood, intellect. Movable or commercial property, as possessors of which the democracy pretended to municipal and political rights, was too msignificant in feudal times to be allowed as a fit plea or basis for such. Democracy was humble and enslaved. The king and superior classes, founding their claims on tradition, came to consider them as irrefragable, and increased each in the pride and tenacity with which they held to power, at the very time when the original source and principle of that power was departing from them. The noblesse in fact were losing fast the preponderance of wealth: the clergy had lost the monopoly of intellect: and yet, in right of these privileges, they offended the natural dignity of man in the ignoble, by the marked and invidious distinction that reigned between the castes; whilst the high clergy denied that intellectual freedom which is dearer than even personal liberty to an enlightened nation. It was hence against the two privileged orders, more than against the crown, that the popular odium was really turned. To this description of the upper and enlightened classes must be added that of the lower orders: they had been brought to a state of extreme indigence and suffering. A country like France, so richly endowed as to suffice for its own luxurious as well as necessary wants, is but late and feebly driven to seek the advantages of foreign commerce, to which poorer countries are forcibly impelled. A despotic government proved a still greater obstacle: in the interior of the country it perpetuated the commercial barrier between province and province, whilst the grasping hand of the financier seized wealth wherever it became manifest, and thus checked all spirit and improvement. Hence trade and manufactures existed but in an infant and undeveloped state. The peasant population had now reached the limits that the national agriculture could employ or could feed, and distress was the consequence. Although not twenty millions covered in indigence the soil which now supports thirty millions in prosperity, the population was declared to be too great. A generation of the poor sprung up, which, homeless and unemployed, felt itself reHeased from that feudal tie which hitherto bound the peasant to the proprietor: these crowded into towns, or remained listlessly and idly vegetating in their native place, until the sounds of commotion and the hopes of plunder came to call them, as ready volunteers, into the ranks and the cause of sedition. . . Such is the true nature of that denuded and wretched state of the lower orders of the French, which afterwards added the ferocity of famine to the horrors of a revolution, which promised, if ever revolution promised, to be fair, moderate, and even gay. In the last years of Louis XV.'s reign, scandalous as was the court, disgraceful as was its policy, and cruel and unjust its administration, the public of the capital showed its censures more by epigram and jeu d'esprit than by indignation. When the abbé Terray defrauded the public creditor by a partial bankruptcy, what would have raised a rebellion in any capital of Europe, Constantinople scarcely